The November 23 issue of Newsweek was pulled from the mailbox and taken inside. A quick look at the cover caused little curiosity. Yes, there was Sarah Palin, looking good in her running outfit, adorning the cover, but her appearance was not that surprising. However, it was intriguing that she would pose like that for Newsweek. Even Ms. Palin, despite being unable to name any newspapers or magazines that she reads regularly, would know Newsweek’s political drift is left of center. Someone surely had told her that. Why grace the cover in such a fetching manner for Jon Meacham’s magazine?
But just to the left of Ms. Palin’s running shoes, there’s a note crediting the photo as taken for Runner’s World, June 2009. The world’s most famous hockey mom had not struck this pose for Newsweek after all. The photo was obtained from the photographer’s stock agency without the permission of Runner’s World. The alleged photo-filching caused the running magazine to decry the unauthorized use but also gain new readers who checked out their Web site to see more Palin shots.
And it all got sillier. Palin, who did pose for the photo after all, called the Newsweek cover “sexist.” Editor Jon Meacham responded by saying the magazine chose “the most interesting image available to illustrate the theme of the cover.” Meacham’s explanation probably did not satisfy any of the Palanistas, but few will when the prettiest moose hunter in the world is involved. It doesn’t matter whether Palin’s words or actions start the firestorm or not. At the end of the day, it’s all about Sarah.
This brings to mind the McCain campaign workers she blames for certain miscues when she ran for vice president with John McCain. Campaign aides certainly don’t get everything right, especially when things are moving so fast in an insatiable news cycle. It’s difficult for the campaigners too. But one campaigning for the second highest office in the land should not feel railroaded when a reporter (Katie Couric) asks what newspapers she reads. Palin thought her interview with Couric would be a session on the travails of working moms. Surely, Americans needed to know how she would handle play dates in between funerals overseas. To ask tougher questions than that was unfair and the McCain campaign is to blame for setting her up. Yes, the McCain campaign that lifted her to national prominence when she was picked as McCain’s running mate. Palin’s fits of pique not only could fill a reality show; they could provide plot lines for a major motion picture.
Think of the film “All About Eve.” Think of Sarah Palin as Anne Baxter in the role of Eve. Sarah/Eve is the ingenue who works her way into becoming the understudy of a person who has worked heroically for success. Then think of John McCain in the Bette Davis role of Margo Channing (think real hard). John/Margo takes on Sarah/Eve as a trusted assistant, a position leading to the second-in-command post. But she makes some mistakes. So what does she do? She blames the friends and supporters of John/Margo. It’s their fault she can’t get her political doctrines straight! She then goes to hockey rinks and talks menacingly of pit bulls. John/Margo takes all this in stride and acts gracefully even as Sarah/Eve is hailed and awarded. The older figure contentedly moves on with life as the younger one dishes and makes more demands.
On the heels of Obama’s election, it was hoped Palin would go away and no longer be considered a serious part of the GOP’s future. Enough conservative writers (Charles Krauthammer, Kathleen Parker, Peggy Noonan) had written skeptically of her anyway. America would certainly tire of the pretty face and feisty behavior. But Obama’s victories since November ’08 have been slow in coming. He inherited a massive mess. It will take years, maybe decades, for the country to recover from the trashing of the healthy republic George W. Bush inherited on January 20, 2001. And Obama has made mistakes. He’ll make more. That will only fire up the partisans, compelling more accusations among the populace who oppose the government’s direction.
Memories are short and faith in the nation’s judgement can fade quickly. Think of the twittering classes among us. A fair amount of them still think highly of the former running mate in running togs. After all, she seems a dedicated public servant. She showed the people of her home state respect by resigning as governor so she could devote more time to being a political diva. Many, having watched her talks with noted political pundits Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters, lament the nation passing her up for the “community organizer.” They long for the pretty face who will lead our nation away from socialism. America needs the pretty face! No, the country needs a clear head. In one of his earliest recordings, T-Bone Burnett sings, “Everywhere I go, there’s pretty girls there.” Burnett seems to enjoy the fact. No reason not to. But there’s not one line in the song about a pretty face qualifying one for leadership.
Let the GOP send Pawlenty, Huckabee and Romney our way. It is expected they will lead their party in its part of the national debate, not a national soap opera.